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Monthly Archives: July 2017

The university as idea factory

The World Bank categorizes one in five Indian citizens as poor. But the country is making progress. In 2015, 170 million people (12.4 per cent) lived in poverty, down from 29.8 per cent in 2009, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was born into poverty, has made economic inequality a priority of his administration. Stand-Up India is one initiative Modi is using to correct the economic imbalance. The program provides bank loans to budding entrepreneurs from the lowest economic strata. Student Start-Up, a spin-off program, aims to create 100,000 technology-based student startups and a million employment opportunities within ten years.

“To tackle jobless growth, we must comprehend multifaceted issues, craft viable solutions, and extract answerable questions from the clutter of public needs,” says Sanjay Inamdar, SF ’05, chairman of Student Start-Up. “This requires multiple tools, one of which is energizing entrepreneurship at the university level. Governments can’t provide jobs to everyone. People have to provide jobs to other people. We’re trying to grow a whole generation of self-starters who create jobs for themselves and for others.” The initiative, Inamdar adds, will create innovation laboratories within universities and groom students to take up entrepreneurial careers and launch new enterprises that generate jobs and societal solutions.

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The world is watching—and emulating—this Latin American innovation hub

“Work hard and keep your head down—that’s Chile’s unofficial motto,” says Rocio Fonseca, SF ’14, executive director of Start-Up Chile. “The goal of the average Chilean is to get a job working for a corporation.” Fonseca adds that small and medium-sized businesses in Chile are not innovation driven. “They tend to err on the side of playing it safe—and that complacency curbs growth and evolution. Chile is not an entrepreneurial culture.”

In 2010, the Chilean government launched the ambitious enterprise accelerator Start-Up Chile to help it turn that national attitude around. The program helps early-stage, high-potential entrepreneurs bootstrap their startups using Chile as a platform to go global. With an annual portfolio of 200-250 companies, Start-Up Chile has fast become the best business accelerator program in Latin America and is counted among the top five worldwide. It’s also the cornerstone of Chile’s national economic development strategy.

Start-Up Chile is actually a collection of three programs: a pre-acceleration program for early-stage enterprises, a seed program for startups with a functioning product and early validation, and a follow-on fund for top performing startups looking to scale up in Latin American and globally. With robust training programs, workshops, peer-to-peer mentoring, and a busy calendar of networking events, Fonseca fosters a fertile environment that connects Chilean innovators with early-stage, high potential entrepreneurs around the world.

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Matchmakers: Finding marketplace compatibility for multisided platforms

We live in a world of matchmakers. Airbnb matches people needing a room to people with an extra to rent. Lyft matches people needing a ride to people with a vehicle and an empty seat. eHarmony matches people looking for love with other people looking for love. The bottom line is, quite simply, supply and demand…with a twist. Multisided platforms are about matching one set of customers with another set of customers. And truth be told, bringing two customer groups together does not always result in a match made in heaven.

In their book Matchmakers: The New Economics of Multisided Platforms, MIT Sloan Dean Emeritus Richard Schmalensee and coauthor David S. Evans, explain how successful matchmakers excel and how entrepreneurs in this realm can improve their chances of survival. Schmalensee and Evans were among the first economists to analyze this marketplace and have consulted for some of the most storied platform businesses in the world.

Rich with stories from phenomenal winners and ignominious losers, their much-talked-about book guides the reader through this complex area of enterprise.

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Promoting inclusive entrepreneurship

Return on investment. It’s not just an economic measure. Ray Leach, SF ’02, CEO of JumpStart in Cleveland, Ohio, believes that social ROI is every bit as important—and as impactful as economic ROI in improving the quality of life of a region. A national thought leader at the intersections of public, private, and philanthropic partnerships, Leach strives to accelerate job creation and increase economic outcomes in neighborhoods, regions, and countries. Co-founder of four tech startups, he was also a founding member of the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (NACIE).

Leach founded JumpStart to work in tandem with government efforts to boost quality of life in Northeast Ohio through entrepreneurship. His diverse team of investors, marketing professionals, mentors, and advisors offers expertise to the founders of new or growing startups. CoverMyMeds, one of JumpStart’s portfolio companies, was just acquired for $1B+. With JumpStart’s nurturing, the company grew from three people to more than 500 in eight years.

Leach believes that to promote entrepreneurship, governments and nonprofits like JumpStart must first create an environment in which entrepreneurial ventures can thrive. JumpStart provides mentorship, education, and introductions to investors—but Leach says that to be truly effective, he and his team needed to get creative. “We have begun to focus on a broad variety of problems that prevent the community from thriving. We realized, for example, that a lot of startups and established companies need employees, but those companies often are located in industrial parks in the suburbs. The unskilled labor they would like to hire resides in urban centers. We need to find out how to bring the workers and the jobs together. In other words, we’re not just looking at job creation, but reducing unemployment.”

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